15 book series that make perfect summer reading
(p.s. you might fall in love)

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”

Dr. Seuss

With spring temps dancing in the 80s, I am finally painting my toenails, trying on shorts, and figuring out a plan to drop that 10+ pounds I put on over the winter. And I’m planning my summer fun reading.

Yes, I can tackle that pile that’s sitting on my nightstand. But when books sit waiting, unread for a long time, they start to feel like homework to me. I have to re-shelve them and forget I meant to read them.

And summer is no time for homework reading (unless you’re a teacher like me, and you have to brush up on The Odyssey). Think about reading something exciting, new, romantic, suspenseful, or inspiring. Or maybe even a set of such treasures. This makes me nearly giddy just thinking about it.

I’d like to suggest choosing a summer series to read instead of a random assortment of books. You’ll close out your summer feeling like you’ve accomplished something enormous and satisfying. Choose a particular genre or author and read several books. You’ll find out some things about yourself and literature, like:

  • Every author has a particular voice and rhythm. I also have a reading rhythm; reading the same author syncs our rhythms together, creating a better experience and greater comprehension.
  • Authors often write in a particular genre and on certain themes; when I know to look for these, I’ll get more out of the book.
  • Multiple books by the same author make you feel like a part of the process and the stories. The characters, especially continuing characters, become friends I care about.
  • Series work great for book clubs; you can end the summer with a themed event or party and discuss all the books you read over the summer. No rescheduling monthly meetings around vacations or pacing your reading because of book club–just choose a series and read at your own pace. Then discuss as a whole series.

A few years ago when my book club read C. S. Lewis for a year, we read The Space Trilogy over the summer. It was a great idea to read the trilogy books in quick succession because the details and themes stayed fresh in our memories from one book to the other.

If you choose books that are also made into films, you can end your summer with a movie or perhaps a movie marathon!

Okay, here’s what I’ve selected for you this summer. Just off the top of my head (there’s a nice variety here)–

FICTION

  • Frederick Bachman—so far my favorites are A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here. The third is a sequel to the second, but Ove stands alone. These are delightful, funny, and poignant. Originally published in Swedish, the style and humor might take a little getting used to. But SO worth it. Backman has published 8 books so far, but they are not a series.
  • Kristin Hannah—I’ve read The Nightingale and The Great Alone so far. I like Hannah’s writing enough to pick up another. She’s written over 20 books, so I don’t think I’ll run out if she keeps getting better. These are her two most recent.
  • Jane Austen—choose 3 of her 6, if you can’t do all 6 (Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility are her most famous and are the best movies); if you know these books well already, you could read Austen spin-offs (most are disappointing) or spin-off movies, like You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Becoming Jane, or The Jane Austen Book Club. Austen’s wit and commentary on people, women’s rights, and families have transcended centuries, continents, and cultures. This is my only classic author on the list, so don’t judge me.

NON-FICTION

  • Brené Brown. Everything she’s written is good. Her TED talks are amazing. But if you’re new to Brené, start with The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. They go together, in that order. Read with a highlighter and be prepared to make memes for your social media outlets. You won’t be able to help yourself.
  • C. S. Lewis anything. He’s written in every genre. My favorites are Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, and The Chronicles of Narnia (see below). This year, my book club read Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan, a historical fiction about Lewis’ wife Joy Davidman, and we all loved it. (But we are Lewis fans.) You will have to think when you read Lewis, though. Sometimes, that’s not very summer-y.

Happiness is a book, summertime, and a hammock in the shade.

Sue Schlesman

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY & YA/CHILDREN’S

  • The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkein (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King) plus The Hobbit.  The movies, should you watch them, will provide a week of entertainment. Developed into 6 films, the entire collection is 17.2 viewing hours (20.28 with end material). Google to find out the order to watch them. Although people rave about the movies, readers always prefer the books. I’m not really a series fantasy person, so I’ll pass on commenting other than to say that Tolkein is considered one of the greatest British writers of all time.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. If you read these in chronological order (not order published), you will start with The Magician’s Nephew and end with The Last Battle. The books are numbered for your convenience. Google to find out the allegorical content. These are each remarkable allegories of Biblical truth and/or Biblical stories. Reading them together will reveal startling spiritual applications. Plus, they are entertaining and easy-to-read. Remember, good children’s literature is always for every age. You must watch at least The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on film; it is the best of the three movies produced so far. Production for The Silver Chair has been on-and-off for ten years. Rumors say that Netflix, the new owner of the series, intends to remake the whole series (because, of course, the children have all grown up).
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; this is a lot of reading for the summer, but once you get going, you’ll want to keep going. Of course, there are lots of movies to see, merchandise to buy, and theme parks to attend. You won’t run out of related activities. Of the 7 Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the highest viewer rating. Certainly, reading and viewing the series with a group will give you a lot to talk about and debate.
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote 3 books that became bestsellers and films—The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. They made me want to become a writer and are still wonderful reading, even for an adult. I have so many lines memorized, but I still cry throughout. If you love child protagonists, mystery, redemption, and 19th century England, you’ll love these!
  • The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. These are a must for kids. (Also why I became a writer.) Laura also wrote a couple books for adults. A few years ago, I began reading The Little House on the Prairie to my mom, and we enjoyed it as much as we ever had when I was young. The T.V. series, I must say, does not follow the books–don’t waste your time (although Melissa Gilbert makes a good Laura).
  • E.B. White—As I said before, a really good children’s writer is good enough for adults to read and enjoy. White’s medal winners don’t get old: Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swans. Go ahead, I dare you to read and not like them and not cry. And of course, see the movies. You’ll cry for sure.
  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. These were completely enjoyable during my teen years, as they are now. Funny, poignant, perceptive, romantic, exciting. Everything. There are nine books about the immaginative and lovable Anne Shirley. The Amazon series Anne with an E is also well-done, but Amazon isn’t making the series fast enough. FYI—you can see the Green Gables house, Lake of Shining Waters, and other “Anne” attractions on Prince Edward Island, which inspired Montgomery’s book setting. Who’s up for a road trip??
  • Kate DiCamillo—known for her book/movie The Tale of Despereux—an ingenious story of love–Kate is a remarkable writer. I took her book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on a weekend away with my husband (a quick read for the car), and I had to stay up late at the hotel to finish it because I couldn’t wait until morning to find out if Edward would be alright. (Sorry, honey.) Kate has a few Newbery Medals under her belt as well. You could start reading her books and never want to stop.
  • The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Beginning with the bestseller Eragon and ending with the fourth book, Inheritance, Paolini weaves together a complex fantasy world filled with detail, action, and description. Boys and teen boys will love them. And if you love fantasy, you will, too. Even though the books are a few inches thick each, my son has read them multiple times (also the Lord of the Rings series). Big books don’t necessarily mean slow books.

MYSTERY

  • Agatha Christie—Agatha wrote at least 70 mysteries, with about half of them being made into movies. Her returning detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have delighted and impressed mystery readers for decades. Reading several Christies in a row will increase your chances of figuring out the murderer, but always prepare yourself for a surprise. Agatha was one smart plotter.
  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote 60 stories about British detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner, Dr. Watson. Four were novels, and the rest were stories collected into volumes (that’s what I suggest for summer—they are quick and clever). Doyle’s stories were so intriguing and believable, during Doyle’s life, cases arrived by mail at 22B Baker Street in London, addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Both Sherlock Holmes movies are entertaining, but the British mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch is to-die for! I’ve lost a lot of sleep over him.
  • So as not to leave out any contemporary authors, Louise Penny, P.D. James and James Patterson remain popular mystery/thriller writers with a wake of books to choose from.

Obviously, I went a bit over 15, but I’d still like some suggestions from you. You may have noticed that I’ve omitted some of the typical summer-reads by modern romance writers like Nicholas Sparks, Francine Rivers, and Karen Kingsbury. If you’ve read a few of their books, you’ve read all of them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not good beach reading. You could take a box of Sparks and rifle through them in no time and enjoy yourself completely. Plus he has a billion blockbuster movies you can watch after the sun goes down and cry your eyes out every night.

It’s almost summer. Choose a series and maybe a group of friends to read with you and enjoy your first book club series experiment! I think you’ll get hooked on reading series.

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